Prenatal Ultrasound: When To Get An Ultrasound When Pregnant

Prenatal Ultrasound: When To Get An Ultrasound When Pregnant

Ultrasound imaging has become invaluable for expecting mothers and doctors in better understanding a pregnancy’s development. It can offer answers to many questions that need to be addressed before, during, and after delivery. This article will explore when to get an ultrasound when pregnant, its importance, and how it helps with the overall health of the mother and child.

What Is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create pictures of internal organs, including those of unborn babies during pregnancy. The images are then used by medical professionals or obstetricians in order to diagnose or assess any conditions or illnesses related to the pregnancy. Ultrasounds are painless and non-invasive, making them one of the safest methods for monitoring a baby’s growth and development as it grows inside its mother’s womb.

 

 

How is an ultrasound performed?

Ultrasound is an efficient, safe technique to verify the well-being of a baby during pregnancy. Using sound waves, the ultrasound produces an image of what’s happening in your uterus. It can be conducted as soon as 5-6 weeks into gestation and typically forms part of regular prenatal care.

During the procedure, a technician will place a probe on your abdomen that sends sound waves through your skin and tissue layers. These sound waves are bounced back and detected by the probe, creating an image on a monitor that a doctor or specialist can examine. Ultrasound is also commonly used later in pregnancy to assess growth rate, fetal position, amniotic fluid levels, and other aspects of fetal health.

What can be detected in a pregnancy ultrasound?

A prenatal ultrasound does two things:

  • Evaluates the overall health, growth, and development of the fetus.
  • Detects certain complications and medical conditions related to pregnancy.

In most pregnancies, ultrasounds are positive experiences, and pregnancy care providers don’t find any problems. However, sometimes this isn’t the case, and your provider detects birth disorders or other problems with the pregnancy.

Reasons why your provider performs a prenatal ultrasound are to:

  • Confirm you’re pregnant.
  • Check for ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, miscarriage, or other early pregnancy complications.
  • Determine your baby’s gestational age and due date.
  • ultrasound when pregnantCheck your baby’s growth, movement, and heart rate.
  • Look for multiple babies (twins, triplets, or more).
  • Examine your pelvic organs like your uterus, ovaries, and cervix.
  • Examine how much amniotic fluid you have.
  • Check the location of the placenta.
  • Check your baby’s position in your uterus.
  • Detect problems with your baby’s organs, muscles, or bones.

Ultrasound is also an important tool to help providers screen for congenital conditions (conditions your baby is born with). A screening is a test that determines if your baby is more likely to have a specific health condition. Your provider also uses ultrasound to guide the needle during certain diagnostic procedures in pregnancy, like amniocentesis or CVS (chorionic villus sampling).

An ultrasound is also part of a biophysical profile (BPP), a test that combines ultrasound with a nonstress test to evaluate if your baby is getting enough oxygen.

When Is an Ultrasound Needed During Pregnancy?

It is recommended that all mothers get at least two ultrasounds during their pregnancy: one at 18 weeks to assess fetal size and structure and another at 32 weeks to evaluate fetal growth. In addition, many women opt for additional ultrasounds throughout their pregnancies if they feel something is wrong or have any concerns.

Regular ultrasounds can provide important information about a baby’s growth, such as its weight, number of limbs present, position within the uterus, amount of amniotic fluid present, head circumference size, and so on. A doctor may also recommend ultrasounds more often than standard guidelines dictate if there are certain risk factors present – for example, if the mother has high blood pressure or diabetes or if there is suspicion of multiples (twins/triplets).

Doppler ultrasound: When To Get An Ultrasound When Pregnant

Doppler ultrasound is a special imaging test showing blood moving through vessels. In pregnancy, a doppler ultrasound can help determine if your baby’s blood is circulating properly. According to a Cochrane review, doppler ultrasound in high-risk pregnancies may reduce the risk of perinatal death and obstetric interventions.

when to get an ultrasoundYour health care provider may recommend fetal doppler ultrasound in the following circumstances:

  • You have diabetes
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have heart or kidney problems
  • The placenta does not develop properly
  • Suspected fetal growth problems

Handheld fetal heartrate monitors also utilize doppler technology. Healthcare providers commonly use these devices to monitor your baby’s heartbeat during prenatal exams and labor. While these are available over the counter, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against using them at home due to a lack of oversight and unnecessary ultrasound exposure.

Guiding ultrasounds

Your healthcare provider may also order other pregnancy tests that require ultrasounds for guidance. These might include chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis, which screens the baby for congenital disorders. Fetal echocardiograms, which show the baby’s heart rate and detect anomalies, also use ultrasound technology.

3D and 4D ultrasounds

Some medical practices offer 3D (high quality and lifelike) and 4D (moving picture) ultrasounds, which may help doctors detect specific fetal abnormalities and congenital disorders. However, these exams are also available at fetal portrait studios in places like shopping malls.

Experts discourage these “keepsake” ultrasounds since untrained personnel may give out inaccurate information.

get an ultrasound when pregnantAccording to the FDA, although ultrasounds are safe in medical settings, they might heat tissues or produce bubbles (cavitation) during use if not performed correctly. Experts aren’t sure about the long-term effects of heated tissues or cavitation, especially when not medically indicated. Therefore, the FDA advises that people use ultrasound scans judiciously—only when there is a medical need, based on a prescription, and performed by appropriately-trained health care providers.

The Importance Of Ultrasound During Pregnancy

Ultrasounds are integral in helping both doctors and patients understand what’s going on with a particular pregnancy. They often reveal things that could not be seen through traditional methods such as X-rays or physical exams alone. For instance, they help detect potential birth defects very early on, which can be managed appropriately with the necessary interventions. Additionally, ultrasounds allow doctors to monitor the baby’s growth throughout each trimester by measuring vital markers like height and head circumference, which can signal potential problems such as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). They also help gauge when labor should be induced, which is particularly beneficial when it is believed that waiting any longer may pose risks to both mother and child due to whatever health condition is present within either one.

Overall, having access to regular ultrasounds throughout each trimester can provide invaluable information about how well a baby is developing inside its mother’s womb before its eventual birth – something that should never be taken lightly, considering how fragile newborns can be upon their arrival into this world.

References:

https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/ultrasound-during-pregnancy

https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/stages/ultrasound/ultrasound-a-trimester-by-trimester-guide/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/9704-ultrasound-in-pregnancy

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=ultrasound-in-pregnancy-90-P02506

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